Artists, collectors, critics, curators and dealers have descended on London through Sunday to take part in the seventh annual Frieze Art Fair (www.friezeartfair.com), a key marketplace for contemporary art globally, with 173 galleries from 33 countries, showcasing more than 1,000 artists. Frieze's success has inspired an autumn art jamboree throughout the city, stimulating satellite fairs, auction sales and shows in other galleries.
Started in 2003 by Frieze Magazine editors Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp to sell contemporary art to a growing cohort of international collectors, fair participants are vetted by a committee of their peers to attract blue-chip galleries, as well as a high-spending, contemporary-art-loving audience. "We provide a focused contemporary art fair—that is our appeal," Ms. Sharp says.
Almost since its inception, Frieze stole contemporary thunder from those old ladies of the art market—Tefaf in Maastricht, strongest in Old Masters and antiques, and Art Basel, which spans both modern and contemporary. The appeal of Frieze, says art consultant Tanya Gertik, is "the energy and the buzz. It's very sociable."
Since Frieze first opened, international art fairs, alongside their cousins—the biennials—have proliferated: Art Basel spawned Art Basel Miami Beach, which then generated Design Miami and, in turn, Design Miami Basel, set up to achieve the same market intensification for contemporary design that the mother fair had achieved for art. Older fairs, like Art Chicago and the Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair, have ceded some priority to newer fairs, such as Art Hong Kong and Masterpiece London.
But some collectors find the blockbuster model overwhelming, preferring a more intimate environment. "The minute a fair gets too large, the enjoyment goes out of it," Ms. Gertik says. Bernard Hartogs, a collector of art and design, adds: "I don't go to Frieze. It's too big." This is one reason why Frieze Week has also, quietly, become PAD week.
It was in 2007 that DesignArt first opened in Hanover Square, with just 19 galleries. Hoping to benefit from the seasonal delirium, French antique dealer Patrick Perrin and modern- and contemporary-art specialist Stéphane Custot, the founders of the successful Pavillon des Arts et du Design in Paris, launched a complementary fair to Frieze, offering one-off and limited-edition contemporary design mixed in with classic European modern design. A year later, the fair was offered Berkeley Square, a prime location, and the charmingly Continental mix of decorative arts, with modern and contemporary design, began to gel. By 2009, the duo felt confident enough to introduce modern art to the mix, experimenting in London with the formula pioneered in Paris. The renamed Pavilion of Art & Design London would invite galleries who specialized in fine art, decorative art or design that post-dated 1860—made after the advent of industrial mass manufacture, but without the contemporary art that is so well served in Regent's Park.
Running through Sunday, PAD (www.padlondon.net), is small and selective, with only 58 galleries. The genial mix of art, design and fine craft—Cristina Grajales's stand this week offers two striking cabinets by Christophe Côme and Sebastian Errazuriz, while Jousse Entreprise has a classic Jean Royère sofa—promotes a way of living with art as much as the buying of it.
Gérard Faggionato of Faggionato Fine Arts in London, says PAD "is comfortable, and people come back two or three times during the week."
Like Frieze, PAD doesn't issue an overall statement of sales, arguing that since sales often aren't concluded until months after the event, such statistics are misleading. Instead, it points you to the quality of the exhibits. Andrew Duncanson from Modernity has rare pieces by Alvar Aalto; Todd Merrill, an outstanding 3.5-meter sculpture of a dandelion (circa 1960) by Harry Bertoia; and Bernard Jacobson, some magnificent Robert Motherwell canvases. "The material is very good," Julian Treager, a collector of fine art, design and jewelry says. "Last year, I bought a vintage Cartier necklace from the 1970s. The year before, some pieces by Studio Job from Carpenters Workshop Gallery."
For the past five years, these two very different fairs have flourished in a finely balanced symbiosis. Next year, however, things are set to change when Frieze launches Frieze Masters, a second fair that will partly encroach on PAD's territory by exhibiting works of art from antiquity through 2000. Frieze Masters will occupy a marquee specially designed by New York art-space specialist Annabelle Selldorf, on the other side of Regent's Park from the contemporary fair, with its own program of events. Ms. Sharp explains that they are "bringing a contemporary approach to historical art—we will bring this art to new audiences." This initiative has been inspired by her recognition that "the past is present in every decision contemporary artists make. This is an opportunity to explore those connections more imaginatively." Meanwhile, in May, Frieze hopes to recreate its London achievement in New York, with a contemporary fair on Randall's Island Park, overlooking the East River.
PAD, however, remains unintimidated. Full of confidence in their concept, and with a line-up of loyal galleries, PAD too is launching a New York edition, Nov. 11-13. As Frieze and PAD continue in full swing, there is competitive tension in the air.
Mr. Perrin hopes his prime location, in Berkeley Square, will keep his modern dealers away from Frieze Masters. "If you bring the right collectors in front of the right booths, the dealers will trust you," he says, adding that "Frieze had no interest in modern painting. The people from contemporary art have almost no interest in the past."